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State v. Whitt

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

April 14, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
RENO WHITT, JR., Defendant/Appellant

Page 33

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. Honorable Colleen Dolan.

For Plaintiff/Respondent: Robert J. Bartholomew, Jr., Jefferson City, MO.

For Defendant/Appellant: Casey A. Taylor, Columbia, MO.

Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J. Mary K. Hoff, J., and Philip M. Hess, J., concur.

OPINION

Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J.

Page 34

Introduction

Reno Whitt, Jr. (Appellant) appeals from the judgment entered by the trial court upon the jury verdicts of guilty on the charges of resisting arrest and first-degree tampering, three counts. We affirm.

Factual and Procedural Background

Appellant contests the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions for tampering. Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdicts, the following evidence was adduced at trial.

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on August 14, 2012, Officer Joshua Little received a call regarding males breaking into cars at the Normandy Court apartment complex. A similar call came in at that time from the Knoll Wood apartment complex, approximately three miles from the Normandy Court complex. Officer Robert Gerholdt received a call with a description of four black males in dark clothing in a red Pontiac Grand Prix at both the Normandy Court and Knoll Wood apartment complexes. After arriving at the Knoll Wood apartment complex, Officer Little and Sergeant Gerald Fitzgerald laid out spike strips between their cars to stop any vehicle attempting to pass between them.

Officer Little was standing outside his car with the driver's side door open, lights activated. He saw a red Grand Prix, driven by Appellant with three passengers, moving slowly toward him and Sergeant Fitzgerald with its headlights off, so he got back in his car and moved it back. Appellant made an abrupt left turn, hitting Officer Little's car door and slamming it shut, then drove up onto the sidewalk. Officer Little and Sergeant Fitzgerald pursued the red Grand Prix, putting out a " be on the lookout" call for it. Officer James Sieve heard the call and pursued the vehicle after it passed him. Appellant was driving the Grand Prix at approximately 90 mph on McDonnell Boulevard when he swerved, lost control of the car, and crashed into a pole. Officer Sieve called for an ambulance. Appellant and his three

Page 35

passengers were trapped in the crashed car. Appellant's front passenger, Ricky Nelson, Jr., died the next day from injuries sustained in the accident.

Inside the car, police found two screwdrivers, one or two cell phones, and a small DVD player. Appellant and his passengers were wearing white gloves at the time of the accident.

The State charged Appellant, as a prior and persistent offender, with second-degree murder, resisting arrest, second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, and three counts of first-degree tampering. The three counts of tampering were for defacing (1) Rodney Campbell's (Campbell) Dodge Ram, (2) Alice Timlin's (Timlin) Chrysler Sebring, and (3) Marvin King's (King) Chevy Impala.

A jury trial on Appellant's charges was held April 21-23, 2014. At trial, several witnesses from the Normandy Court apartment complex and surrounding area testified to the defacement and break-ins of their cars on the night of August 14, 2012, and the personal items stolen from them.

Campbell testified his Dodge Ram 1500 truck was damaged on August 14, 2012 at Normandy Court, with a hole about the size of a screwdriver punched below the door lock on the driver's side and a broken steering column and ignition cylinder, with damage totaling $1,270.

Timlin, who lived in a condominium near Normandy Court, testified that on August 14, 2012, her 2001 Chrysler Sebring had the ignition switch removed from the steering column and laid on her car seat. Her door lock had also been pried out. Damage to her car totaled about $1,500.

King testified his 2010 Chevrolet Impala was broken into on August 14, 2012, at Normandy Court with a screwdriver, resulting in damage to his door lock and his door: " My driver's side door had got -- they had, I guess, used a screw driver or whatever and popped the lock on it." King testified his TomTom GPS and his Bible were taken from the car.

Appellant was the only witness to testify on his own behalf. At trial, he admitted he knew the Grand Prix was stolen. He also admitted he wore the white gloves to wipe his fingerprints off the steering wheel. He admitted to tampering with cars on many occasions.

The jury found Appellant guilty of resisting arrest and the three counts of first-degree tampering, and acquitted Appellant of the assault charge. The jury was deadlocked on the murder charge, so the trial court declared a mistrial on that charge and entered ...


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